Get the ball rolling with a free coaching consultation Let's go! >

How to Breathe Better!

The average person takes around 25,000 breaths every day. You'd think that with all that practice we'd get it right every time! But most people's breath is shallow, filling just the top of the lungs.

According to a Harvard Medical School study, this shallow chest breathing "increases tension and anxiety, (and) limits the diaphragm's range of motion. The lowest part of the lungs doesn't get a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.”

how to breathe better

Check my Meetup group "Men Who Love Women" for a list of my latest classes and courses!

When we're stressed or under tension, our breath quickens and becomes even more shallow. This creates a negative feedback loop: we don't get sufficient oxygen, which stimulates our "fight or flight" response, leading to more quick and shallow breathing, and so on.

Improper breathing is hazardous to our health.

Correct breathing is powerful healing medicine.

Practice belly breathing by expanding your abdominal muscles without expanding your chest. This will fill the lungs from the bottom up, increasing lung capacity and improving the replacement of used air with fresh air.

Mouth breathing vs. nose breathing

Breathing through the nose is much healthier. Mouth breathing, on the other hand, creates problems for us.

Nasal breathing:

  • Cools and moistens the air that enters our lungs,
  • Filter out dust, keeping it out of our lungs,
  • Widens your airways,
  • Activates the sympathetic nervous system, responsible for alertness,
  • Activates the parasympathetic nervous system, associated with relaxation.

Mouth breathing:

  • Dries the air entering the lungs,
  • Increases water loss from the body,
  • Increases the need to urinate, interrupting sleep,
  • Disrupts oxygen flow to the prefrontal cortex, our decision making and social behavior centers,
  • Is a possible link to ADHD.

If nasal breathing is not possible for you due to obstruction, inflammation, or congestion, then see your doctor. A program of recovery could include medication or surgical intervention. The breathing exercises listed below can help you on the road to recovery, so that nasal breathing becomes the norm for you and not the exception.

Breathing Exercises: a Review

This short list of breathing exercises is but a small sample of what's available. These come from centuries-old Buddhist or Hindu (yogic) traditions, but in many cases have been updated to reflect current energetic and medical understanding.

They do not require a complete change in lifestyle to implement. On the contrary: they can be used at any time of the day.

Find what works for you and make it a part of your daily routine. There are many more online resources available than I have space for, should you wish to explore further. You'll feel better!

how to breathe better

How to Breathe Better: Kundalini and the Breath of Fire

Kundalini yoga teaches "Breath of Fire", a breathing technique to energize the body through powerful abdominal breathing. In it, we adopt a basic yoga pose then inhale and exhale powerfully, using just our belly muscles, while keeping our upper chest still, for around a minute per pose.

This breathing exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles and makes good belly breathing habitual.

Kundalini breathing is said to draw stagnant life-force energy from the base of the spine up into the higher energy centers in the body. It's a profound practice that can induce major shifts in perspective.

I credit Kundalini breathing with helping me emerge from a difficult time in my life. I go back to it whenever I'm feeling stuck or out of balance.

How to Breathe Better: Sudarshan Kriya

This breathing meditation practice is reported to improve alertness and concentration while increasing lung capacity and strengthen the immune system. It's also effective against anxiety and depression.

Sudarshan Kriya consists of three steps, each lasting about 15 minutes:

  1. Breathe normally from the diaphragm with inhales and exhales of equal length.
  2. Breathe normally, with exhales twice as long as the inhales.
  3. Breathe normally, with inhales twice as long as the exhales.

How to Breathe Better: The Wim Hof Method

The Dutch "Ice Man" Wim Hof promotes a method of deep breathing followed by holding:

  1. Take thirty deep breaths through the nose, making sure to expel all air on the exhale,
  2. After the last exhale, hold for as long as you can. With practice you'll be able to reach two to three minutes.
  3. When you've reached your limit, inhale deeply and hold your lungs full for fifteen seconds.
  4. Repeat four times.

The benefits of the Wim Hof method are hard to pin down. The founder claims a variety of benefits when combined with meditation and controlled exposure to cold, such as improved immune response and ability to handle cold.

I start my day with this technique, and I've found it helpful to awaken my mind after sleeping.

I've also found that the quality of my sleep and how well I've eaten the evening before determines how long I can hold my breath. This is useful feedback that motivates me to maintain healthy habits.

How to Breathe Better: Alternate Nostril Breathing aka Nadi Shodhana

This practice is for restoring balance when we're feeling stressed. It consists of five to ten cycles of inhaling slowly through the left nostril (while holding the other closed), holding the breath at the top of the inhale, switching the closed nostril, exhaling through the opposite nostril, then holding briefly at the exhale.

Inhaling through the right nostril activates the sympathetic nervous system, which keeps you alert. The left nostril affects the parasympathetic nervous system, keeping you relaxed. The result is a technique that simultaneously relaxes and sharpens the mind.

Because each cycle takes less than a minute, Nadi Shodhana can be inserted easily into your daily routine or used spontaneously when you need a reset.

one-nostril breathing

References for How to Breathe Better

"Breath, the New Science of a Lost Art", by James Nestor
Harvard Breath Study
Wim Hof Method
Science Direct breathing study
Sudarshan Kriya
Nadi Shodhana

Book your free coaching consultation here!

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

You might like these

Subscribe to my newsletter and claim your free gift “Cultivating Sexual Polarity”

Share this page: